Our third American Thanksgiving in Italy was really great. There were eight of us, the new Americans in town (Marie & Chris) and their visiting niece (Anne), our friend Jo, our real-estate person, Cinzia V., and her daughter (Arianna). It was the first American Thanksgiving experience for Cinzia and Arianna. It is always so fun to see an Italian’s reaction to a whole roasted turkey and to the fact we put everything on the table at once instead of in Italian courses. I initially placed my order for a 15 lb. turkey from a different place this year. I arrived Monday morning for pick up and they bring out Godzilla turkey that looked like 22 lb. or more. My regular butcher saved me with a next-day delivery of exactly what I wanted, while totally unaware that I had attempted to cheat on him. This is the first year I found sweet potatoes and we used IKEA’s lingonberry compote as a proxy for cranberry sauce. So, finally, all my traditional dishes were represented on my Italian Thanksgiving table. What would we do without IKEA??
Cinzia V. was so overwhelmed with it all that she invited us and Marie and Chris (also her clients) to her house for Christmas Day, and the invitation still stands. So this will be our third Christmas Day in Ascoli and each at a different Italian home. I have to keep saying third because it is hard to believe we have been here that long. We spend every Christmas Eve at Grace’s home for a fabulous seafood feast with friends. The invitations are out for our annual New Years Eve potluck party with music by our talented friend, Serafino, and the inevitable dancing. There will be some traditional foods like lentils with sausage (for luck and money), grapes (for prudence in what you do with that luck and money) and honey (for a sweet new year). However, in case you were wondering, we will not be wearing red underwear (fertility) or throwing furniture or clothes out the window (out with the old).
We have enjoyed over 25 straight days of sun here in Ascoli. The temperatures at night now are near freezing, days in high 40s or low 50s. Il Meteo, the weather site, is predicting a snowy winter this year starting in January – yikes! During our time here my prayers have been granted and we have only experienced dustings of about an inch, but the winter of 2010 had a lot of snow as photos around town remind us. Most of you know I despise cold weather but it’s the one accommodation I have to make to live the Italian dream. And I don’t look too bad in hats.
The local shops had their Christmas windows up earlier this year – some before the 1st of December. The lights in the piazzas were turned on two days early due to the December Antiques Market happening 6, 7, & 8th. The 8th is the official start of Christmas, the Feast of The Immaculate Conception, and continues to January 6th, Feast of the Epiphany. They actually switched up some of the decorations this year and added a few new ones (lighted Christmas tree and garlands at front of the Cathedral). But everything is in full swing now – piazzas and adjoining streets decorated, ice-skating rink, Christmas market, American Christmas music playing, and all manner of artigianale holiday foods. I guess the donkeys asked for time off this Christmas as there are no rides this year. Many of the music/dance schools are having performances this month, along with professional troupes performing Don Giovanni, a Puccini concert, Swan Lake by The Ballet of Moscow, The Beatles (imitators), a Gospel Choir, and the annual free-to-all Christmas concert in the Teatro. The many churches are full of music and we will likely attend one in the Franciscan church where a friend is in the choir. The other night I was walking back from the grocery store and, as I walked past the main piazza, there were about 100 children on a stage singing – ages 4 to 14 in Santa hats. It’s just that magical here.
Larry put up our IKEA tree and spent an irretrievable day of his life struggling with four strings of very uncooperative lights. We have now decided to remove the breakables, bag the tree and store it in the cantina after the holidays – a decision long overdue. I finished my Christmas baking and we completed our deliveries yesterday and today. A few bottles of my lemoncello with basil were distributed as well. The Italians are always so surprised and appreciative. Last week I had the pleasure of joining three friends to make the famous Olive all’ Ascolana. (Olives stuffed with three finely ground herbed meats or fish, breaded and deep fried-yum!). We made both kinds, fish for Christmas Eve and meat for Christmas Day for a total of 360 olives. We freeze them and fry them up just before serving. My homemade cherry liquor has been maturing in the cantina for the recommended six months but, unfortunately, it still tastes like cherry-flavored lighter fluid. A friend said her’s took an additional year to mature. Now I have to retract my promises of gifts of cherry liquor this season, but the good news is I have a start on next year’s holiday gifts.
Larry installed our Apple TV we brought with us from the US and it has a screen-saver feature that will run our photos at random in a cool cascading manner – who knew? (Likely everyone but me.) We delayed hookup so long because we thought it might interfere with our already slow and not-always-reliable internet, but our fears have proved unfounded. So I spent three valuable days of my life (totally worth it) going through the last 15 years of digital holiday pictures (Thanksgiving through New Years – family, friends, BATB, pets, trips, parties, Christmas trees, cooking, foods and feasts) and selected about 210 of them to put in the digital album. Larry and I just sit and watch it scroll by and reminisce. It makes us miss everyone all the more, but we love watching it. Talk about your life flashing before you!
We will leave you with the image of Larry and I enjoying memories of precious holidays past and missing you all like crazy. We wish our family, friends, and those readers who we have never met, a loving and joyous holiday season and good health and prosperity in 2016. Arlene & Larry
Look for accompanying photos under Portfolio.